Tuesday, April 10, 2007

FanGirl

So, as it turns out, venturing out for a mild 18-mile bike ride is overdoing it in my case. The effect is not unlike rewinding several weeks. I knew I had gone wrong when I woke up to sharp pains Saturday night and realized I couldn't bend my leg. Now my co-workers are commenting on my limping again. I'm aware that I've hit rock bottom .. well ... at least several times during the past eight weeks. But this has to be it. The very bottom. I am officially turning my back on cycling until I get this thing under control. The decision makes me feel at once relieved and devastated.

As my own prospects of a summer season becoming increasingly dim, I find myself drawn in to the exploits of the endurance mountain biking counterculture. I've never really been able to count myself as a sports fan - in fact, the prospect of sitting through an entire game of any sport is about as appealing to me as watching laundry dry. But ever since the Iditarod Invitational, any tidbit I can find about gonzo races and the grimy athletes who compete in them is like candy to me. The more spartan and obscure, the better. Not doing any cycling of my own only fuels my fanaticism. Gwadzilla recently made an interesting observation about the state of specatorship. When a person says they "like" baseball or "like" music, it usually means they like others' baseball feats, others' music. Now, when I say I "like" cycling, I'm often thinking about events in the coming weeks that I'm not even connected to, but yet I look forward to them with a strange kind of zeal:

Arizona Trail 300, April 13: This race is still a pretty small affair, and I don't know much about it. But of all the mountain bike races out there, I'm most interested in ones that follow a multi-day, self-supported format.

Trans Iowa, April 28-29: I get a big kick out the fact that what seems to be the most popular event in grassroots distance mountain-bike racing happens to cross the state of Iowa. Now I've only glanced Iowa - barely - on the Interstate, so I'm in no position to judge. But ... Iowa? That anomaly alone makes this race very intriguing.

Kokopelli Trail Race, May 19: As far as I understand it, this race one of Mike Curiak's inventions. He's since passed the torch to others, which is just as well in these no-fee, no-support, no-podium events. This is one of the shortest of the gonzo events. At "only" 142 miles, it seems like it would be a good introduction into self-supported endurance racing.

Grand Loop Race, June 1: Another multi-day race. This one sounds intense. Not only is it 360 miles with about 48,000 feet of climbing, but racers attempt it in the stifling heat of the desert in June. It bills itself as one of the last, true, pure wilderness events, and I buy that assessment. Dave Harris is considering attacking this route solo, sometime in May, away from the already-small crowds and oh-so-subtle hype of the race itself. I like this kind of thinking, because it reaffirms my belief that the largest and most daunting events transcend competition into something else entirely.

Great Divide Race, June 15: This has to be the grand-daddy of all North American mountain bike races, although with more experience, I might be inclined to argue that the Ultrasport 1,100-mile race to Nome is even harder. Either way, GDR is the real deal. The amazing part is, there are 17 racers who are actually planning on attempting it. Some familiar names on the roster, too. The smart money's probably on Pete Basinger to be the first to Mexico, although Jay Petervay, Carl Hutchings and others I haven't even heard of will definitely put the hammer down. This should be a race to remember. I'm personally really looking forward to watching Dave Nice tackle the trail on a fixie of all things. These people are crazy! That's what makes these events so fun to watch.

There's probably a whole slew of other races that are still outside my radar, but if I stay off my own bike much longer, I'm sure I'll find them soon enough.